Intel Expands Bug Bounty Program Post-Spectre and Meltdown

Nvidia security update

Intel will pay up to $250,000 to researchers who identify bugs more severe than 9.0 on the CVSS scale.

In the wake of the Spectre and Meltdown bugs, Intel has rolled out a significant expansion of its bug bounty program.

Intel first launched the program in March 2017. The big changes include a shift from an invitation-only format to one that is open to all security researchers. One key addition is a program for side-channel vulnerabilities, which are associated with the Spectre and Meltdown vulnerabilities.

Both vulnerabilities, which were first publicized in January, are at the CPU level.

Spectre impacts a wide range of CPUs from Intel, AMD and other makers, while Meltdown affects Intel processors. Meltdown breaks the security boundaries between a device’s operating system and applications, allowing an attacker to read information in the latter. Spectre inhibits the memory isolation between applications, and is considered by researchers to be more difficult to exploit.

Intel’s new program for side-channel vulnerabilities is valid through Dec. 31. Reports on side-channel bugs rated between 9.0 and 10.0 on the (CVSS) Common Vulnerability Scoring System scale will pay out up to $250,000. Vulnerabilities rated between 7.0 and 8.9 will carry a bounty of as much as $100,000. Below the 7.0 threshold, awards max out at $20,000.

“We will continue to evolve the program as needed to make it as effective as possible and to help us fulfill our security-first pledge,” said Rick Echevarria, VP and GM of platform security, in a blog post.

Since Spectre and Meltdown were disclosed last month, it has struggled to issue effective patches for the vulnerabilities. In one case, it asked customers to stop applying patches because the fixes caused excessive system reboot and other problems.

To that end, the scope of Intel’s proposed awards in the bug bounty program may underscore how serious the company believes the vulnerabilities are.

As context, Google only recently introduced a bug bounty program for the Play store, initially offering $1,000 per RCE vulnerability and raising that potential reward to up to $5,000 earlier this month.

Intel is partnering with HackerOne on its bug bounty program. In June, HackerOne said the average bounty payout in 2016 was $1,923, a rise of 16 percent over the previous year.

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